Earlier today I tweeted about blogger Jeff Hamilton’s hare-brained idea that the recently implemented top-of-the-search links to NLM’s PubMed Health is some kind of government-Google conspiracy. I tweeted about Hamilton’s tweet, which had a link to his article on his own blog — Ha Ha, funny, right?

The way I came across Hamilton’s article, however, gives it a bit more seriousness — I found it when I was searching in Google for pubmed health, as in the screenshot at left — The first 6 hits are links that are well-known to the medical library community. But #7 is Hamilton’s article — that seemed so laughable on his own blog — in PageRank-powered Psychology Today, which means Google takes it seriously!

The lesson here, I think, is that NLM needs to say something about PubMed Health! As I discussed in my earlier article on it, and as Nikki Dettmar has discussed, it’s very strange that PubMed Health has been launched and assumed automatic #1 rankings in Google searches with no announcement or discussion of any of it by NLM or Google — If it had been talked about, assuredly it would be reflected in the Google search results in the screenshot. Instead, as these results show, there’s sort of a “vacuum” of information about the whole situation — which is just waiting to be filled by “passing spectators” like Hamilton ;-)

For the record, I’m including a screenshot of Hamilton’s article in Psychology Today that’s linked in the Google search:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

In January I wrote articles about the wonderful way Amazon’s Kindle app works on non-Kindle devices to allow cross-platform reading of Kindle eBooks. Using the Kindle apps on other devices (iPad and iPhone have been especially popular) has advantages over using the Kindle device, such as easy highlighting and note-taking. It was ironic. then, that it was just a week after I wrote that news came out that Apple would be putting restrictions on the use of the Kindle app on the the iPad and iPhone. While it’s not clear how much this will restrict use of the app on Apple devices, it seems likely to diminish their use.

With a relatively small number of titles available on the iBookStore, Apple is not in the business of providing content, unlike Amazon, with its KindleStore, and Google, with the Google eBookStore. So, with so few books of  its own, it’s surprising that Apple is putting restrictions on Kindle app users, instead of encouraging them — Hey, Apple, it seems like Amazon is helping you out!

Kindle apps on the iPad have been immensely popular, as described in my previous article, and the reaction to the new Apple policy has been strongly negative. A tweet by @fienen on Feb 15 highlights this (boldface added):

The content wars continue. Apple may have played the wrong card here. Big time. Official: Apple locks down the Kindle app http://ow.ly/3WVcP

On the same day as this tweet, an article in CNNMoney reported recent remarks by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, in which he called Amazon’s Kindle e-reader app the best business decision of the past decade, which made Amazon “‘the poster child’ of the cloud computing movement” — I don’t know about that, but I’d say the Kindle app certainly showed Amazon’s astuteness about the eBook cloud environment.

I think the future of eBooks is going to belong to the one who can bring together the devices & computers with the best collection of books. Right now, Apple has the devices and Amazon has the most books. So get with it, Apple — Amazon has opened up it’s books to play with your devices, so how about reciprocating?

What will Google do?

Looming over the spat between Apple and Amazon, of course, is … Google. As I said in concluding my previous article about the Kindle app ecosystem, “imagine the possibilities if Google puts their attention to doing something like this for their collection of public domain eBooks” — Bringing together the devices (Android tablets) and the books (Google eBookstore) in Google’s one big house.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

In his recent article in Library Journal (The Benefits of Less) Aaron Schmidt talks about simplifying library websites to make them more usable. He suggests that a good way to work on this is to think how the site would be designed for mobile devices:

Another way to brainstorm the most important parts of your website is to imagine you’re building a mobile version. Given the limited screen real estate available, what parts of your site are essential?

I suspect Schmidt is not aware of it — I haven’t seen it discussed much in library circles — but the idea of building the mobile version of a site first, before building the full desktop site, is more than just an imaginary brainstorming idea in the dotcom tech world — In 2009, Luke Wroblewski proposed his Mobile First idea that this is the best way to design a website — Design the site first for mobile, then work on the full site design. Last year, Google’s Eric Schmidt took up Wroblewski’s theme, saying in a speech at the Mobile World Congress that Google would “work on mobile first” in bringing new tools to the Web.

A few months ago, venture-capitalist Fred Wilson wrote an elegant summary of the Mobile First idea that resonates strongly with Aaron Schmidt’s ideas for designing library websites:

I was meeting with the team from one of our portfolio companies a few weeks ago and we were talking about a redesign of their new web service. I had told them I thought the initial design was too busy and too complicated to work well in the market. They showed me the iPhone app they were planning to release soon. I said “just do that on the web.” And happily they told me they were thinking the same thing.

Using the mobile web as a constraint to think about web design is growing in popularity. I see it in my own efforts and the efforts of our portfolio companies. When users spend more time accessing your service over a mobile device, they are going to get used to that UI/UX. When you ask them to navigate a substantially busier and more complex UI/UX when they log onto the web, you are likely to keep them on the mobile app and off the web app.

I’m starting to think a unifying vision for all apps should start with the mobile app, not the web app. And so it may also be mobile first web second in designing web apps these days.

Wilson could almost be talking about the same “busy, complicated” library websites that Aaron Schmidt talks about — Good website design for a venture capitalist is also good for libraries.

Related articles:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I just noticed last week that Google is now ranking pages from the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Health encyclopedia at the top of search results for disease words (accompanied by an attention-getting red icon) as shown at left for asthma. Other disease examples putting NLM at the top of search results are diabetes, migraine, lupus, and chickenpox. So, Congratulations, NLM! — A great new opportunity to lead people to the wealth of information at your site!

There are questions though — I was surprised to find this prominent placement for NLM (which replaces less prominent placement in the Health OneBox group of links at the top of Google searches that I wrote about in 2009). There apparently has been no announcement of the change, either from NLM or from Google, as far as I can find in searching. Beyond that, I also can’t find that NLM has announced the launching of the PubMed Health (PMH) encyclopedia that’s linked from Google. It was mentioned as being in development in summer, 2010, but there’s been nothing since saying that it was completed and ready to use.

There are also questions about the PubMed Health pages that are linked from Google (first screenshot below). These are from the ADAM Health Encyclopedia, and the same content is also part of NLM’s MedlinePlus (second screenshot below) — Why is NLM maintaining two different versions of the same content? Also, the PMH page that’s linked from Google (in the first screenshot below) has no link to MedlinePlus (MLP). The MLP version of the ADAM content, on the other hand (in the second screenshot below), is tightly integrated into the wealth of other information in NLM’s flagship MLP resource.

Below is the PubMed Health page that’s linked at the top of the Google search for asthma. This page has no link to MedlinePlus, in contrast to the MLP version of ADAM content, in the second screenshot below.

Here’s the MLP page for asthma, that’s well-integrated into other resources in MLP. So, NLM, how about asking Google to link to MLP instead of PMH? Otherwise, if the Google link continues to go to PMH pages, make a link from those to MLP!

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Siva Vaidhyanathan is a frequent commentator on the Google Books Settlement, and my impression has been that he’s generally on the “anti-Google” side. In a long interview by Andrew Albanese in Publishers Weekly, however, Vaidhyanathan presents a more nuanced view. He continues to be unfavorable to the Settlement, and to the part played by libraries in scanning their books for Google. But he also acknowledges the failure of public institutions, especially libraries, in taking the initiative to digitize the world’s books. The interview is full of interesting insights on a wide range of Google-related subjects. Here are some excerpts on Google Books (boldface added):

The Google Books plan is a perfect example of public failure. The great national, public, and university libraries of the world never garnered the funds or the political will and vision needed to create a universal, digital delivery service like Google envisions. Public institutions failed to see and thus satisfy a desire—perhaps a need—for such a service. Google stepped in and declared that it could offer something close to universal access for no cost to the public. The catch, of course, was that it would have to be done on Google’s terms.

Here Vaidhyanathan’s mixed sentiments about Google and the Settlement start to show — He says that if Google had proceeded in its legal battle as he would have preferred, the legality of Search might have been undermined — Which apparently would be OK with him — Even though he says earlier in the interview that he “loves Google” and relies heavily on its Web Search, so acknowledging that he’s like the rest of us, caught on the horns of the Google good-evil dilemma:

[On Google's Fair Use defense in the Books Settlement] Say, Google had decided to fight in court, rather than settle. And say it won before the Supreme Court. Congress was never going to let them just win. Congress would have listened to the major content providers, and it would have intervened in a way that would have restricted fair use. That in turn could have undermined some fundamental practices of the Web, like search. …  But with books, Google reached from the digital world into the analogue world and said to publishers, “You now need to operate by the rules of the Web.”  … As a policy argument, there is something to be said for running copyright the way Google wants to run it. If we were testifying before Congress about such a change, I would be right up there with Google. But as it stands, that’s not what Congress has said, and that’s not what the courts have said.

And here, he seems to be acknowledging that if Google had followed the conventional legal procedures that other companies have to do, there’s a pretty good chance that the scanning project wouldn’t have gotten off the ground yet:

[On the Settlement as a corporate end run around the legislative process] Google figures that if it creates good products and they get popular, the courts and Congress will be less likely to undo them. But that is an arrogant, audacious perspective on the legal and legislative system, and it’s fundamentally antidemocratic. Google should have to do things the old-fashioned way: hire lobbyists to bribe legislators to get their agenda passed [laughs]. Seriously, though, that’s what every other company has to do. And as sick as it sounds, that’s the way the game is played. If Congress thinks it is a bad idea to permit a digital library like this, then we fight harder to convince them why it is a good idea, and we make those arguments in public.

In concluding the interview, Vaidhyanathan returns to the high road, calling for the people of the world to finally take up their responsibility and create the universal digital library:

[On the argument that libraries would never have been able to do the project that Google is doing] If we, the people of the world, the librarians of the world, the scholars of the world, the publishers of the world, decide that we should have a universal digital library, then let’s write a plan, change the laws, raise money, and do it right. If we’re going to create this with public resources, let’s do it in the public interest, not corporate interest. There’s nothing wrong with Google pursuing a books project, of course, and, yes, there are benefits. But we have to understand that what Google has created is first and foremost for Google.

See the complete interview for additional interesting insights: Sergey Brin and Google as the mind of God; the “brilliant story” of Google Search; and why publishers will like Google eBooks more than Amazon.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Josh Keller’s recent article in the Chronicle, As the Web goes mobile, colleges fail to keep up, as the title indicates, focuses on college campuses. But it’s message also applies well to libraries, as I’ve discussed before. Around the same time I saw the Chronicle article, I came across the graphic on the left that seems to capture the same ideas in a picture – Together with the chart on the right, from the Chronicle article, the message is clear – “The mobile wave is coming fast, don’t get washed away.” Here are Keller’s words:

Hand-held devices like smartphones and tablets are fast becoming the primary way many people use the Internet. Half of all college students used mobile gear to get on the Internet every day last year, compared with 10 percent of students in 2008, according to Educause, the educational-technology consortium.

But many colleges still treat their mobile Web sites as low-stakes experiments. That attitude risks losing prospective applicants and donors through admissions and alumni portals that don’t work, and it risks frustrating current students who want to manage coursework and the rest of their lives with their mobile phones, says David R. Morton, director of mobile communications at the University of Washington. “For so many institutions,” he says, “mobile is a part-time job, almost an afterthought.”

One key to these projects is recognizing the mobility of mobile devices, and not treating them as if they were small desktop computers. Among colleges, even the leading mobile applications and Web sites still function like add-ons; students and others can get much the same information on a personal computer, although perhaps not as quickly.

But many college officials say that will change within a few years. As more people adopt Internet-enabled mobile phones, colleges will be able to take advantage of features like the ability to record information on the fly or to determine somebody else’s location.

Colleges often do not realize how far their Web services have fallen behind what students are used to, says Kayvon Beykpour, of Blackboard. The Stanford graduate recalls that signing up for courses online was so difficult that it was a “running joke” in the computer-science department. “Students are using Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, all these Web 2.0 systems every day,” Mr. Beykpour says. “It’s like their top five Web sites they use. And the sixth Web site is the school Web site, because you have to use it. And that’s where the biggest disconnect is.”

Another recent thread speaks to the problem of trying to keep up with the mobile wave — In a talk making the rounds on Twitter, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt says put your best people on mobile — A pretty strong indication that Google et al are scooping up all the mobile programmers they can find, which means that inevitably it’s going to be hard for us in academia to compete. So for the time being, we’ll probably need to rely on the sorts of third-party solutions discussed in the Chronicle article, like Blackboard and iMobileU.

For me, a key to understanding the deep infrastructure of mobile has been learning about WebKit, the underlying technology of all mobile browsers, including Safari, Chrome, and Android. Read more in my earlier article: The Mobile Revolution & the WebKit Revolution.

Mobile wave graphic credit: http://ssb.mofusepremium.com/blog/the-mobile-web/the-mobile-browser-is-the-killer-app

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I wrote in my last article about using Kindle apps to capture highlighted text on a web page so it can be pasted to other applications. This seems like a major advance in eBook reading to me. Surprisingly, I’ve found few other people who have given this the importance that I do, with one notable exception — After discovering that I could use the Kindle app to capture text, as I described in the previous article, I finally did discover an article that I’m excerpting here by education writer Will Richardson, in which he describes having the same Aha! experience with the Kindle annotation capture that I did.

The only comment I have about Richardson’s narrative is that he writes of his experience with the Kindle app on an iPad, and doesn’t mention being able to do the same thing on the Kindle PC and Mac apps. I don’t have an iPad, and I imagine he didn’t try using the PC and Mac apps, as I’ve done, but from what he describes, it certainly sounds like the Kindle app works equally well on all of them. Here are Richardson’s words (boldface added):

Last year, I put the Kindle app on my iPhone and downloaded a couple of books to read. … But non-fiction wasn’t so great. If you look at most of the non-fiction books in my library, you’ll see they’re totally marked up, underlined, annotated and messy … On the Kindle, I could highlight, and take a note, but it just wasn’t as useful. The notes were hard to find, and the highlights just weren’t feeling as sticky. I wasn’t impressed; in fact, it was frustrating.

Last week, when I downloaded my first book to my shiny new iPad, things improved. The larger screen made a big difference, creating highlights and typing in reflective notes was a breeze, but I was still feeling the same frustration with the limitations; …  I kept searching for a way to copy and paste sections of the book out into Evernote … My searches didn’t come up with anything, and I finally turned to Twitter and asked the question there. Ted Bongiovanni (@teddyb109) came to the rescue:

@willrich45 – re: iPad Kindle cut and paste, sort of. You can highlight, and then grab them from kindle.amazon.com #iPad #kindle

Turns out my iPad Kindle app syncs up all of my highlights and notes to my Amazon account. Who knew? When I finally got to the page Ted pointed me to in my own account, the page that listed every highlight and every note that I had taken on my Kindle version of John Seely Brown’s new book Pull, I could only think two words:

Game. Changer.

All of a sudden, by reading the book electronically as opposed to in print, I now have:

  • All of the most relevant, thought-provoking passages from the book listed on one web page, as in my own condensed version of just the best pieces
  • All of my notes and reflections attached to those individual notes
  • The ability to copy and paste all of those notes and highlights into Evernote which makes them searchable, editable, organizable, connectable and remixable
  • The ability to access my book notes and highlights from anywhere I have an Internet connection.

Game. Changer.

I keep thinking, what if I had every note and highlight that I had ever taken in a paper book available to search through, to connect with other similar ideas from other books, to synthesize electronically? … Others might not find this earth shattering, but this is a pretty heady shift for me right now, one that is definitely disrupting my worldview.

As I mention in the previous article, Amazon doesn’t quite have the process perfected, but when they do, I think this will, indeed, be a Game Changer for scholarly study … And imagine the possibilities if Google puts their attention to doing something like this for their collection of public domain eBooks …

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I don’t have a Kindle device, but I’ve recently started reading Kindle books with Kindle apps. The thing I like most about this is being able to capture highlights and notes as text. As I discuss below, Amazon doesn’t quite have this process fully perfected, but it works well enough that it gives an exciting glimpse of the future of eBooks.

Several other eReading platforms support highlighting and note-making, so I suspect doing it on Kindle doesn’t seem like such an outstanding feature to many users. But I think many are not aware that all highlighted text and notes are synced and put on a web page in the user’s account, where it can be copy/pasted anywhere — Voila! Instant saving of highlighted text and notes!

Most of my reading is non-fiction, and I’ve done a lot of hand-annotating — underlining, highlighting and note-taking — in my print books over the years, so capturing these kinds of annotations in an ebook seems like a great advance. Having all highlighted text instantly copied on to a web page, from where it can be pasted as text to another application, is especially valuable.

The screenshots here show the steps in reading, annotating, and capturing text. I usually read on the iPod Touch, with the Kindle app, which works fine for highlighting, as shown in the screenshot. The app also allows the addition of notes (indicated by the little blue box after “1855), but I usually save note-taking for the desktop app.

I’ve used the Kindle app for PC (shown below) and for Mac. These both support highlighting and more flexible note-taking than the iTouch app, so I do most of my note-writing here. Both the PC and Mac Kindle apps are notable for their elegant, smooth interfaces, with an option for two-column display and flowing text wrap — Maybe a foreshadowing of HTML 5 tricks that will soon become common in eReaders.

And, finally (below) the account-specific “Your Highlights” page at kindle.amazon.com that brings all highlights and notes together, and allows them to be copy/pasted to other applications.

As I mentioned above, the process I describe above is not quite perfected by Amazon, and that may be why they haven’t publicized it more — The process does work as described, but the syncing is not always timely. Sometimes it takes a day or two for annotations done on one of the apps to appear on the “Your Highlights” web page.

Another, more basic, hurdle in the “text capture” process, that Amazon doesn’t say much about, is the whole question of copyright implications — How much text can be highlighted and copied from a book? I haven’t found any general statement about this from Amazon. I’ve heard/seen that it’s generally 10% of the book’s text, but I’ve also heard that some publishers allow up to 40%. Before the process can be widely publicized and encouraged, Amazon and publishers will have to be more up-front about this.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Google has been under attack recently, because its search results often seem to be overwhelmed by spam-generated links. On the other hand, Wikipedia has gotten many laudatory commentaries on the occasion of its tenth anniversary.

The timing here is interesting — Google, which is driven by computer-generated algorithms, is being “outsmarted” by human SEO engineers who have figured out how to “game” the system to get their sites a high ranking in searches. And Wikipedia, powered by smart human curators, has risen to become “a necessary layer in the Internet knowledge system.

I’ve looked at several of the tenth-anniversary commentaries discussing the uniqueness of Wikipedia, and it’s surprising that I haven’t seen any that note the significance of its being a human-generated tool. TheAtlantic had a good round-up of commentaries by 13 “All-Star Thinkers” — Some of them do talk about the importance of collaboration in the working of Wikipedia, but none of them make the more basic, and, to me, even more acute observation that, in this age of the computer, it’s done by human beings!

In the Wikipedia article on Wikipedia, in the section The Nature of Wikipedia is this interesting quote from Goethe:

Here, as in other human endeavors, it is evident that the active attention of many, when concentrated on one point, produces excellence.

Indeed — As my library school teacher used to say “if there were enough smart humans we wouldn’t need to rely on computers.”

So — Librarians Take Note! Have you ever considered becoming a Wikipedia editor? — On the occasion of the tenth anniversary, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is making an effort to foster more diversity in curation — He especially mentions reaching out to Libraries for help.

Finally, on a related thread — Another notable aspect of Wikipedia that hasn’t been mentioned in anniversary articles — Not only is it done by humans, but it’s done by humans on a volunteer basis — As I discussed in an earlier article, Daniel Pink uses this as a classic example of “intrinsic motivation” >> Wikipedia vs Encarta: The Ali-Frazier of Motivation.

Related articles:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I don’t have a Kindle device, but I’ve recently been learning about the advantages of using the Kindle apps for PC, Mac, and iPod Touch. A great weakness of the Kindle device is that it doesn’t display color, so color pictures on the Kindle apps open up a whole new world.

All Kindle books have a free sample that can be downloaded to the device and to the apps. I’ve downloaded samples for several books that seemed likely to have pictures, and have found that the sample is often from a portion of the book that has only text. I’ve found some cases, however, in which the sample does have pictures, in the list below. To look at these free samples, sign in with an Amazon account, download the appropriate Kindle app, follow the links below, and view samples.

Kindle Books with Color Pictures:

In searching for books with color pictures, I found some that have only black and white. Here are a few for comparison …

Kindle Books with black & white pictures:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey